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  • Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

    I know the next laptop I buy won't be a Dell. For the longest time, the Business line of Dell laptops included heavy, voluminous but reliable bricks. The price was fair, they were a bit larger than necessary, but they were durable and reliable. The Dell Home machine were notoriously brittle, cheap, and quick to fail. Home also included India support. Over the past 10 years, a lot has changed. The Dell Business line laptop I have now (Dell Latitude D620) started having serious problems about 1 week ago:

    1) After being on for a while, multiple vertical lines would flicker on-screen, and move, become thicker then thinner, and then go away after the system froze. (Even magic syskey request was no help.)
    2) Sometimes, the screen would turn black, and then a fade to dark metallic green would appear from the top left, and fade to the bottom right, and then shift to a purple fade -- sort of like a screen saver, except it was frozen.
    3) Random rectangular blocks would appear that would cover the fading colors.
    4) On reboot, the machine would freeze during POST, or fail to even display the Dell logo, instead providing a black background, then power off on its own.
    5) The underside of the machine actually felt hot to the touch -- hotter than it did when it was new, but temperature sensors continued to report the same temperatures, even though it felt hotter.
    6) The problems did not appear when I wasn't pushing the system very hard, or in cases where I had fans circulating air directly on the base. (This was not necessary just before last week. Before last week, it just worked, as-is without any extra cooling.

    After all of the above, I contacted Dell support to get them to replace the motherboard. After talking with 4 "tech" and being disconnected their online chat 3 times over a 3.75 hour period, they finally sent out a new motherboard and tech to replace it.

    After the motherboard was replaced, the running temperature on the underside of the laptop is as cool as it was the day I bought it, and all of the problems are now gone.

    Best guesses as to the failure:
    1) Thermal probes are providing the incorrect temperature, and as a result, the speed stepping, and fan RPM are not keeping up, resulting in higher than normal running temperatures which ultimately shorted the lifespan of the hardware as soldier/weld points expanded/contracted, or melted or both because of the temperature extremes.

    2) Hardware defect (specific to this unit, or maybe across the entire model) became a emergent property of the system as a result of extended use in the real world

    I am glad that I paid for the extended warrantee, because without it, I would have a hunk-o-junk paperweight.


    Anyway, I really liked the IBM ThinkPad from the early 1990's. They used standard hardware, were reliable (I have a ThinkPad 560 that still works, even if the HD failed.) Sadly, I know that IBM ThinkPad are now Lenovo ThinkPad, and I've heard mixed reviews about these systems since the name was changed.

    The Panasonic ToughBooks look good to me too. I've never owned a panasonic laptop, but the toughbooks look durable enough for my man-handling of technical equipment.

    Things I liked about Dell Latitude D620:
    Hardware was "standard" enough to let me get all hardware working in Linux with little effort except the fingerprint scanner (which I wouldn't use anyway) and the "WinModem" (which required payment for a working driver.)
    Included Nvidia video which support 3d accelleration and support with nvidia driver for GLX and other lib for hardware 3d acceleration.

    Things I didn't like:
    They used a "WinModem" to save on costs, but increase driver difficulty and steal more cpu cycles when using the modem.
    Support online sucked. On one issue, they said that windows needed to be (re)-installed to replaced the DVD Drive which was overheating.
    Hardware failure after less than 2 years in the motherboard/video card. (Video is integrated, so not really a "card" in the conventional sense.)

    Do you have specific gripes and likes about the model laptop you are using? I'm going to be in the market to buy a new laptop in about 1 year. I'm interested in what to avoid and why, and what to seriously consider and why. Please specify what OS and distribution (and/or version) if you can.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

    Did it have nVidia video on board?

    There was news recently that several nVidia chips have a physical issue that is causing premature (thermal?) failure.

    It spans more than one chip they have in the market and is not specific to any actual machine manufacturer.

    http://mobile.slashdot.org/mobile/08.../0142219.shtml

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

      Originally posted by Ugly View Post
      Did it have nVidia video on board?

      There was news recently that several nVidia chips have a physical issue that is causing premature (thermal?) failure.

      It spans more than one chip they have in the market and is not specific to any actual machine manufacturer.

      http://mobile.slashdot.org/mobile/08.../0142219.shtml
      Yep. Thanks for the story. I must have missed this in my review of slashdot in the past.

      Back to the other topic, have you find a good laptop manufacturer or specific model with reliable hardware?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

        Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
        They used a "WinModem" to save on costs, but increase driver difficulty and steal more cpu cycles when using the modem.
        Mo... dem?
        45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B0
        45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B1
        [ redacted ]

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

          Originally posted by bascule View Post
          Mo... dem?
          Modulate Demodulate?
          What you say? We get signal?

          Are you referring to the obsolete naming convention as a property of what the device actually does now? There is a reason I put it in double quotes. :-)

          How about you, Bascule? you have a favorite laptop that is reliable?

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

            I'm reminded of a related issue, I think it was also with Dells, back when I was working e-scrap one day we got in a shipment of about a hundred [very small sampling of the affected machines] of their slim case desktops that all had a particular faulty set of capacitor that tended to explode.

            Story goes that some Korean chip fellow defected from his company and stole their trade secret recipe to bring to America and sell to a bunch of board vendors. Unfortunately.. instead of the win-recipe he took the recipe full of fail and liver instead by accident, but nobody noticed until after thousands of these caps had been shipped out on desktop boards.

            The punch line is that our company wanted to unsolder all the faulty caps and replace them with equivalent good caps and then re-sell them. Let me tell you how far that plan went.


            Back on topic, however. Lenovo is atrociously overpriced and overhyped garbage. I know a couple fellows who used to work for Best Buy and Circuit City, and they stopped carrying them because literally not a soul would purchase one at the price Lenovo demanded. IBM somehow got roped into a contract with them, however, such that we are /required/ to use Lenovo equipment on-site.

            Thinkpads are flimsy shoddy shades of what a laptop should be. The keyboards have a very weak and unsatisfying/sticky action, the mice are set up in such a way that when typing, you /will/ either bump the nub or the touchpad or both, the case itself is generally shaky and weak. On my T40 at least, resuming windows from hibernation can take 10-15 minutes between power-on and Windows becoming usably responsive (on my home XP computer it takes about 30 seconds).

            My Toughbooks on the other hand are things of beauty. I own three CF-07 bricks that I use for headless servers [firewall, Vent, and torrents], and three CF-27 laptops. The keyboards on the non-backlit models are gorgeous. I've never typed on a laptop keyboard that had such smooth and assuring action on it, and honestly not many full-size keyboards. The backlit ones are neat too, but are very very stiff being rubberized and sealed, but if you grew up with a typewriter it'll work well. And of course the construction feels, well, sturdy and comfy, having a built-in handle and clips for shoulder-straps are brilliant. I've knocked them off of tables onto concrete floors more than once with little more than scratches to show for it. If you're looking for a console beastie, they're perfect [around p2 300 with 128MB], could probably run Backtrack or a fluxbox off it too if you were so inclined.

            I'd love to get my hands on the CF-29 convertable tablet model, but I generally see them for 4-5 grand on ebay, whereas the 27s and 07s I can pick up for under a hundred.


            Edit: Distros running, m0n0wall and Ubuntu-server (Hardy Heron)
            " 'Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation' yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation."
            - Willard Orman Van Quine

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

              My experience is different from moleprince. My main laptop is an IBM Thinkpad T42, and I love it. My preference is for Thinkpads, and out of about 10 laptops I've owned about 7 have been Thinkpads. The T42 was made just before the switch to Levono, but a couple of friends and clients have bought since the switch and my impression is that the Levovo Thinpads are just as good as the IBMs. It's my intention to buy more in the future for several reasons:

              1) I absolutely LOVE the TrackPoint (aka "the little red nub") and HATE HATE HATE touchpads. The only feature that I really dislike about the T42 is that it comes with a touchpad. Other models Thinkpad don't have the touchpad, and I'll certainly skip it in the future. IMO, touchpads are the devil's spawn.

              2) The built-in encryption chip is a great feature. I've been encrypting client data long before it was on the public radar. Clients used to think I was overly protective of their data. Now they think I was almost clairvoyant in my insight that sensitive data should be encrypted.

              3) While they aren't Toughbooks, the models I've owned have been kicked around pretty good, and always emerged unscathed. The older models had titanium cases that weighed a ton. The newer models have titanium frames.

              4) My preference is for positive actions (clicky) keyboards, and IBM/has gotten that ever since the first PC. The Thinkpads are no exception.

              Unlike what moleprince reposts, my standby/resume hibernation/resume has always been fast on all the Thinkpads.

              One line of laptops I that wouldn't buy are HP/Compaq. I've repaired the power connector on too many of these machines, and other issues seem to come up more often with these laptops than other brands. They can best be described as 'over-priced, low-quality junk.'
              Thorn
              "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                Originally posted by Thorn View Post
                One line of laptops I that wouldn't buy are HP/Compaq. I've repaired the power connector on too many of these machines, and other issues seem to come up more often with these laptops than other brands. They can best be described as 'over-priced, low-quality junk.'
                I'll second the power connector issues with Acer laptops as well. I've gone through 3 at work, all dead due to broken power jacks (and to even see anything but the outside, it has to be pulled *completely* apart)

                Looks like you might be getting a Mac Book ;)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                  Originally posted by Ugly View Post
                  I'll second the power connector issues with Acer laptops as well. I've gone through 3 at work, all dead due to broken power jacks (and to even see anything but the outside, it has to be pulled *completely* apart)

                  Looks like you might be getting a Mac Book ;)
                  MacBookPro's aren't too bad. They are overpriced though. When I had a pro it was the best vista running laptop out, though that was a couple years ago. The macbooks are alright, they had a few issues in the beginning with faulty heatsink thermistors. They're a breeze to work on, when you need to. I actually think they are a tad more durable than the pro's, just because of the polycarbonate shell. The aluminum pro's dent, the macbooks just bounce. Customer support is spotty though. Some people have no problems with them, others have nightmares, just ask Chris, or not, the rant can last a while. I've not had any problems with my Dell laptops, though they are older models with dead batteries, and I don't use them enough to spend the money on new ones. My wife had a Hp laptop the all the sudden decided she didn't need to type on it anymore, as half keyboard started working only half the time. I pulled it apart and couldn't find any problems with it. After that it worked for a month, then started doing the same thing again. Replaced it with a 12" Dell XPS. That's been working like a champ, though I need to up the ram in it. I'd love to get my hands on a Toughbook, I used to have an old P1 Itronix that was the bee's knees for wardriving.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
                    Are you referring to the obsolete naming convention as a property of what the device actually does now? There is a reason I put it in double quotes. :-)
                    I was referring more to the obsolete technology.

                    How about you, Bascule? you have a favorite laptop that is reliable?
                    My MacBook has been treating me fine for the past two years.

                    That said, I almost thought about getting a MacBook Pro recently, however they also included the defective nVidia chips you seem to have encountered. Glad I didn't now.
                    45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B0
                    45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B1
                    [ redacted ]

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                      Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
                      Do you have specific gripes and likes about the model laptop you are using? I'm going to be in the market to buy a new laptop in about 1 year. I'm interested in what to avoid and why, and what to seriously consider and why. Please specify what OS and distribution (and/or version) if you can.
                      First, I want to say that I'm looking forward to finally meeting TheCotman at Defcon. Second that I've always enjoyed your posts.

                      But I have to say, with all due respect and the lightest of heart please be more SPECIFIC :-)!!!!! Saying you are looking for a laptop these days is like saying my software won't run on my hardware. You can fill oceans with the amount of vagueness in that statement / question. Windows or other, or both, and or virtualized?

                      Are you looking for a 21" quad core desktop replacement notebook that weighs 20lbs? Or are you looking for an UMPC? Or something in between? I'll skip the what do you want to do with it question out of respect. :-) Do you have a budget, or unlimited funds?

                      I personally want it all, and am constantly trying to push the envelope when it comes to notebooks. I all too often however have to make major sacrifices when it comes to them. Weight vs performance vs battery life. I have a 17" desktop replacement and a 12" tablet these days as I can't seem to find one that just does it for me.

                      Centrino 2 is just coming out and is promising more battery life than performance but there will be a quad core Intel notebook cpu in the works. I have the new HP tx2500z with the AMD Puma CPU/Chipset 12" tablet, however it is less than 30 days old and the the panel is still out.

                      Vista complicates every purchase these days. For example my notebook scores a 4.0 overall on the Windows Vista benchmark. I was at Microcenter and they had a HP Blackbird 2(uber gaming rig, with all the bells and whistles) Desktop system for demo. I ran the test and only came up with a 5.8 overall; go figure that one.

                      I usually say this about digital cameras but that is another rant. Why do all digital cameras suck? To me they all take pictures that look grainy when compared to film. Talk about cheap to, when did plastic optics replace glass?

                      Anyway please more detail.

                      In lieu of more detail http://www.notebookreview.com is an excellent source of user information. PC Mag is bought and paid for don't listen to their recommendations. If you want to you are welcome to play on mine and try it out.

                      xor
                      Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to making babies, hacking, and youtube videos.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                        Originally posted by xor View Post
                        First, I want to say that I'm looking forward to finally meeting TheCotman at Defcon. Second that I've always enjoyed your posts.
                        Ah, but I won't be at Defcon this year. I have too many projects all due around the same time as Defcon, so I am skipping this year. I should be present next year. :-)

                        But I have to say, with all due respect and the lightest of heart please be more SPECIFIC :-)!!!!! Saying you are looking for a laptop these days is like saying my software won't run on my hardware. You can fill oceans with the amount of vagueness in that statement / question. Windows or other, or both, and or virtualized?
                        This is partly addressed in my list of likes and dislikes. The present system is a Core 2 Duo, but I'd prefer to go with a Core2Extreme. Obviously, reliability is more important than a quad core system, and compatibility with most hardware supported in stock linux kernels is also a requirement.

                        Right now, the ToughBooks are looking better for my needs.

                        Are you looking for a 21" quad core desktop replacement notebook that weighs 20lbs? Or are you looking for an UMPC? Or something in between? I'll skip the what do you want to do with it question out of respect. :-) Do you have a budget, or unlimited funds?
                        Right now I am looking for durability, reliability and standard hardware which is supported in stock Linux kernels. I've used Mac OS from Mac OS 4 through to OS X as part of work, but I don't like the restrictions. In the first round, money is not the focus, and neither is processor speed, nor are number of cores. Those are for later steps where selection is refined by value considerations.

                        I personally want it all, and am constantly trying to push the envelope when it comes to notebooks. I all too often however have to make major sacrifices when it comes to them. Weight vs performance vs battery life. I have a 17" desktop replacement and a 12" tablet these days as I can't seem to find one that just does it for me.
                        Weight? I don't care how big or heavy it is. I'm not a short guy.

                        Centrino 2 is just coming out and is promising more battery life than performance but there will be a quad core Intel notebook cpu in the works. I have the new HP tx2500z with the AMD Puma CPU/Chipset 12" tablet, however it is less than 30 days old and the the panel is still out.
                        Though it would be nice to have a Centrino 2, Core 2 Extreme notebook, speed is not my primary concern. Though TPM and Virtualization support are nice, they are not required for my needs.

                        Vista complicates every purchase these days. For example my notebook scores a 4.0 overall on the Windows Vista benchmark. I was at Microcenter and they had a HP Blackbird 2(uber gaming rig, with all the bells and whistles) Desktop system for demo. I ran the test and only came up with a 5.8 overall; go figure that one.

                        I usually say this about digital cameras but that is another rant. Why do all digital cameras suck? To me they all take pictures that look grainy when compared to film. Talk about cheap to, when did plastic optics replace glass?
                        astcell and flea have both spent some time taking pictures and using digital cameras. They would be good resources to bribe with beer for information about digital cameras while at Defcon.

                        Anyway please more detail.
                        Done.

                        In lieu of more detail http://www.notebookreview.com is an excellent source of user information. PC Mag is bought and paid for don't listen to their recommendations. If you want to you are welcome to play on mine and try it out.

                        xor
                        Consumers reports also had a review of notebooks/laptops, and they have historically been a much less biased source of comparisons than magazines that accept advertising dollars from the manufactures of products they review.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                          Yeah, I got very mad at my digital camera the other day. While I was getting off an exit on the express way I see the coolest shot. On top of a pole mounted traffic camera sat a huge hawk. The hawk was looking in the same direction that the traffic camera was. Me & my camera messed it up. I was soooo pissed it was a great shot missed sigh.

                          xor
                          Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to making babies, hacking, and youtube videos.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                            Originally posted by xor View Post
                            Yeah, I got very mad at my digital camera the other day. While I was getting off an exit on the express way I see the coolest shot. On top of a pole mounted traffic camera sat a huge hawk. The hawk was looking in the same direction that the traffic camera was. Me & my camera messed it up. I was soooo pissed it was a great shot missed sigh.

                            xor
                            My digital Rebel is with me most of the time. When it's not my iPhone is. Now the iPhone isn't the best camera phone out there, but it's good enough to get the point across.

                            Oh, yea, speaking of cool photos,

                            http://idisk.mac.com/barrywoods/Public/F22P51F16.jpg

                            I really need to pick up a good zoom lens for the Rebel.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Laptop Rant (hardware suckiness) or awesome laptops

                              Thorn: I'll absolutely respect your right to disagree with me. ;)
                              Maybe I've just had bad luck with all the Thinkpads I've been around, because like you I've met other folks [just nobody I work with strangely] who love them as well, and it could just be a factor in the ifninitely refurbished status of the ones that we use. I just don't feel the keyboard on them as being very affirming. IBM's desktop keyboards on the other hand are like typing on butter. I've rescued several from the hallway.
                              " 'Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation' yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation."
                              - Willard Orman Van Quine

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